Ex-Dean at Temple Convicted

A jury took less than an hour to find him guilty in case that embarrassed the university and the rankings industry.

December 6, 2021
 

Moshe Porat, former dean of the Fox Business School at Temple University, was convicted Monday of wire fraud for submitting false data to U.S. News & World Report for rankings.

What Porat really did, according to the Justice Department, was “conspired and schemed to deceive the school’s applicants, students, and donors into believing that the school offered top-ranked business degree programs, so that they would pay tuition and make donations to Temple.”

The jury took less than an hour to convict Porat, who was dean of the business school from 1996 until 2018.

He also was the dean of Temple’s School of Sports, Tourism and Hospitality Management from 1998 until 2018. When he was dean of both schools, Porat earned “nearly $600,000,” according to the indictment. His salary at the time of the indictment was $316,000, although the Justice Department says “he has not taught a class or published any scholarly research since 2018.”

Porat was indicted in April. The indictment marked the latest escalation of what initially appeared to be a discrepancy in the rankings in U.S. News & World Report of the university’s online M.B.A. program. It was later determined that Temple had actually intentionally provided incorrect data about the percentage of its students who had submitted test scores for the Graduate Management Admission Test, or GMAT.

Temple’s online M.B.A. program was ranked No. 1 by U.S. News for four years in a row, starting in 2015. But that ranking was based on false information that all of Temple’s online students had taken the GMAT. In fact, only 20 percent had done so. It turned out that in the years 2014, 2015 and 2016 (the three years prior to the most recent for which Temple was ranked best online M.B.A. program), the university had also reported that 100 percent of its students had taken standardized admissions tests. In the two years prior to that (when Temple hadn’t been the top program), the percentages were 25 and 33 percent, according to the website Poets & Quants, which reports on business schools.

The indictment states that there is a “direct correlation” between U.S. News rankings and online enrollment at Temple. When it was ranked No. 28 (in 2013), it enrolled 70 students in the online M.B.A. program. In 2015, when the program was ranked No. 1, it enrolled 198 students. The next two years, Temple enrolled 253 and 356 students—based on the false information submitted.

The change in Temple’s behavior, the indictment charges, came after a 2013 meeting between three Temple officials and U.S. News officials. At the meeting, U.S. News officials said they did not perform audits of the online M.B.A. data submitted because they “lacked the resources to do so.” Subsequently, the practice of submitting false data took off, the Justice Department said.

The Justice Department also presented evidence that Porat submitted false data about the average work experience of Fox’s part-time M.B.A. students and the percentage of Fox students who were enrolled part-time.

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“Today, a jury reaffirmed that wire fraud is a federal crime even when perpetrated within the system of higher education in the United States,” said U.S. Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams. “Moshe Porat misrepresented information about Fox’s application and acceptance process, and therefore about the student-body itself, in order to defraud the rankings system, potential students, and donors. This case was certainly unusual, but at its foundation it is just a case of fraud and underlying greed. We respect the jury’s verdict and thank its members for their service.”

Local press accounts said that Porat shook his head as the verdict was announced.

He expressed shock at being indicted, with his lawyer saying, “We are disappointed that, after cooperating with the government in its investigation, the United States Attorney’s Office decided to bring these charges, which Dr. Porat vigorously denies. Dr. Porat dedicated 40 years of his life to serving Temple University, first as a faculty member, and ultimately as dean of the Fox Business School, and he did so with distinction. He looks forward to defending himself against these charges and to clearing his name.”

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